Consisting of a compilation of essays, dialogues, and monologues, Practitioners: Voices Within the Emerging Church, is a thought-provoking examination of post-modern ecclesiology by a diverse group of forward-looking leaders within the emerging church. Recognizing the immense change taking place in contemporary Western culture, these practitioners discuss their concerns with the traditional church, reflect on the Scriptures, reassess spirituality, and contemplate a variety of innovative ideas that facilitate genuine spiritual formation and social transformation in the post-modern setting. Convinced that the present church must be willing to change to remain relevant to the culture, the book explores alternative methods of relating the gospel to people in a variety of contexts. Unquestionably passionate, real, honest, and at times, controversial and offensive, the nine authors believe the church must embrace a new missiology that is centred on authentic, loving relationships with all people, regardless of socio-economic status, race, or sexual orientation.
Chapter one, written by Greg Russinger, lead “missionary” at The Bridges Community, an alternative church affiliated with The Foursquare Church, sets the standard for the book by exploring the life of Christ to discover how the church can embrace his redemptive mission in the world. Believing that Jesus’ ministry primarily took place within community, Russinger explores what the church could look like if it reflected the relational and communal heart of Christ. Rather than being confined by the moral judgment systems of others or inflexible church polity, Russinger envisions a missiology that is lived out according to the “rhythms of hospitality,” where people are welcomed into a loving and caring relationship that personally introduces them to the transformative power of Christ and the cross.
The following chapters expand on the notion of living according to the missional heart of Christ and present a vast assortment of ideas, thoughts, and visions for the future of the church. Chapter two focuses on reviving the sacrament of prayer that combines the transformative practice of intercession and social action. Chapters three and four explore the use of storytelling, media, and the visual arts as a means of communicating the gospel and expressing worship to God. Chapter five wrestles with the concept of what it means to be a “missional people” and how petty religiosity within the traditional church is often a barrier to the journey of discipleship modelled by Chris. Building on the idea of missional living, chapter six explores the role of justice in the life a Christ-follower and asserts that caring for the poor is not an option, but is rather an essential function of every believer who wishes to reflect the message of the gospel. The following three chapters of the book take a closer look at the future of the church, its leaders, and its followers, and provide a series of conversation starters that examine how the emerging generation thinks about God and how the church can penetrate the culture through creativity, imagination, and in “rhythmic harmony with God.” Closing out the book, the final chapter contains a series of journal entries from an urban missionary in London, England, who engages his community through “incarnational” living- being Jesus to the poor, hurting, abused, and disenfranchised.